Despite a series of initiatives aimed at generating foreign tourism, the Saudi Arabian government continues to bar Jews and Christians from bringing items such as Bibles, crucifixes and Stars of David into the country and is threatening to confiscate them on sight, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
"A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the kingdom due to religious reasons and local regulations," declares the Web site of Saudi Arabian Airlines, the country's national carrier.
After informing would-be visitors that items such as narcotics, firearms and pornography may not be transported into the country, the Web site adds: "Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are also prohibited. These may include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David, and others."
Contacted by the Post, an employee of Saudi Arabian Airlines in New York, who would only give her name as Gladys, confirmed this rule was in force. "Yes, sir," she said, "that is what we have heard, that it is a problem to bring these things into Saudi Arabia, so you cannot do it."
An official at the Saudi Consulate in New York, who declined to give her name, told the Post that anyone bringing a Bible into the country or wearing a crucifix or Star of David around their neck would run into trouble with Saudi authorities.
"You are not allowed to bring that stuff into the kingdom," the consular official said. "If you do, they will take it away," she warned, adding, "If it is really important to you, then you can try to bring it and just see what happens, but I don't recommend that you do so."
Asked to explain the policy, the official said, "Every country has rules about what can or cannot enter."
Over the summer, the Saudi government-run Supreme Commission for Tourism announced a number of steps, such as issuing group visas to foreigners through tour operators and granting longer entry visas, in the hopes of boosting the number of foreign tourists to 1.5 million annually by 2020.